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Bangladesh's mining, oil, gas sectors and Russia's AI-based solutions

Ritu Sharma | Published: May 31, 2019 21:35:35 | Updated: August 09, 2019 21:24:26


After its ground-breaking partnership with Bangladesh to give the country its maiden nuclear power reactor, Russia is exploring the prospects of deepening cooperation in the field of Artificial Intelligence and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in mining, metallurgy and Oil & Gas sectors.

Bangladesh is looking to leapfrog from a developing country to a developed nation by fuelling its economy and increasing the economy's efficiency simultaneously. The country with a population of over 170 million is also looking to find smart solutions through AI in the field of public health, agriculture, traffic management, national security. The IIoT is still in a nascent phase in Bangladesh and the potential is immense in the field of mining that can in turn push the country's energy and manufacturing sector forward. More than mining, the Oil and Gas sector of Bangladesh will reap the benefit of these technology-driven innovations. Presently, Bangladesh is the 19th largest producer of natural gas in Asia despite having huge gas reserves of 14.16 trillion cubic feet. The country has a daily natural gas production of around 2,700 million cubic feet and is even struggling to meet the energy demand of its own population. Already Bangladesh's neighbour, India, has embarked on the task to digitise all the value chain of mining - drilling and blasting, an intelligent mine with unmanned vehicles, crushing and enriching minerals etc.

Russian AI firms are hoping that gaining confidence from the Rooppur nuclear power plant, Bangladesh will confidently embrace AI innovations too. "Russia is building Bangladesh's first nuclear plant at Rooppur and participating in drilling wells for gas exploration. Such projects are expected to boost Artificial Intelligence (AI) industries in both the countries. We see significant potential for introduction of AI and IIOT in industries like metallurgy, mining, chemicals as well as in oil and gas sector in Bangladesh," Managing Director of Finnish-Russian AI and IIoT solutions firm ZYFRA Pavel Rastopshin said about the potential of Bangladesh AI market. Artificial Intelligence is attracting investments across the globe. According to PwC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers) FinTech Trends Report India) 2017, global investment in AI applications reached USD 5.1 billion from USD 4.0 billion in 2015.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) can help a country increase domestic production, reduce costs and ensure security to a great extent. ZYFRA has already made foray into South Asia, through projects in India. Also, it is working on IIoT projects in China, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Bulgaria and Romania. The experts expect the machine performance in a given sector to improve by 8-12 per cent following the implementation of technological process through precise control. The first joint project in the field of Artificial Intelligence in the mining sector in Bangladesh is expected to take off either this year or the next.

The presence of AI in day-to-day life is more ubiquitous than acknowledged. Social media sites, internet search platforms are all AI-based solutions where data are collected and performance is improved thereafter. Approved IIOT solutions are already being implemented in light industry and agriculture (which is the base of  Bangladesh's economy) to increase labour productivity. And this has been done without incurring significant expenditure. The capital city of Bangladesh -- Dhaka -- is already looking at boosting the use of AI in other sectors like smart city management, traffic monitoring, healthcare system and others.

Smart Mining is the future

Foreign investors are closely watching the prospects of IIoT solutions for mining and; oil & gas sector in Bangladesh. The current global use of technological solutions in mining on an average is less than 50 per cent and 25 per cent in developing countries, where this industry is most developed. In the mining sector AI-based solutions are paving way for unmanned vehicles (dump trucks, excavators, bulldozers) to be integrated into a single digital control system for the mining and transport complex and ensure no human being is made to work in dangerous areas.

"We are currently looking for reliable partners in Bangladesh to jointly promote a Intelligent Mine complex that allows increase in utilisation of haul trucks and excavators by up to 20-25 per cent and drilling rigs up to 35 per cent, as well as reduce costs of maintenance by 10-15 per cent per year," Rastopshin added.

Most developed countries, including China and the US are shifting gears to be ready for the technology-driven global society by investing in research and development projects focussed on AI.  AI is the replication of human intelligence processes by machines. Just like a human mind, a true AI system can learn on its own.

An 'Intelligent Mine' would have a positive economic and ecological impact, as the use of self-driving vehicles and smart machines will reduce costs and cut emissions. Also it will bring down fatalities in occupational accidents in the mining sector. For Bangladesh, the figure of fatalities in occupational accidents till the year May 2015 was around 600. And 488 workers were injured in these accidents, a report by the Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) said.

Self-driving vehicles are being dubbed as the solution to curb the number of fatalities caused by humans working in hazardous conditions. Self-driven industrial vehicles are expected to become a reality in the next 3-5 years. In the mining industry haul trucks can already work completely autonomously. Bulldozers can also drive themselves to the work area but require a remote operator for other actions.

Smart drilling for efficient production in Oil and Gas sector

Industries are seeing AI as a money saver option, an answer to climate change and a trigger for improvement in the efficiency of oil and gas sector. Climate change can cause a loss of USD 23 trillion to the global economy if no steps are taken to mitigate the situation. "AI can help in reducing the emissions by about 20 per cent. AI-driven solutions for heavy industries have proven to be effective in reduction of emission by 5-30 per cent depending on the type of industry," Rastopshin added.

The United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia together occupy over 40 per cent of global hydrocarbon production and carbon emission. Annual industry losses due to well-bore instability are estimated to be more than USD 14 billion. "AI-based drilling optimisation solution alone allows increase in oil production up to 20 per cent and decrease in non-productive time by 5-7 per cent, while cutting the losses up to 35 per cent," the ZYFRA's Managing Director added. 

Some estimates show that more than 94 per cent of the wells globally will require artificial lifts at some point of time in their life cycle. The raw estimates show that AI solutions could save up to USD 5.0 trillion in the global economy by 2030 by reducing carbon emission.

Bangladesh has the largest gas reserves in Asia and smart drilling options are the future of the industry in the country aspiring to become an energy superpower in the region.

Rastopshin also downplayed the threat of job loss because of AI as complete automation is still a distant reality. "Automation of production can actually lead to a reduction in employment, especially in highly hazardous areas (toxic, high-temperature, traumatic, etc.), but in this case, released workers can also be employed at checkpoints to monitor the operation of existing equipment," the ZYFRA representative said. He added that automation would lead to a reduction in the so-called "routine" occupations in those industries, where artificial intelligence will replace a person, performing repetitive tasks. At the same time, new industries will appear and minimise the effects of job cuts.

 Ritu Sharma is Editor, nuclearasia.com. Her email is:  ritu.sharma@yandex.com

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